Lodi resident and California Sportfishing Protection Alliance Web master Jerry Neuburger, along with 85 other trout rescue volunteers, helped remove thousands of trout from Caples Lake, near South Lake Tahoe, this week.
Two of the lakes' dam gates needed urgent repairs, and officials began to drain the lake, leaving the fish with less water each day. When El Dorado Irrigation District officials found the damage, they planned to fix the problems in 2009. But after finding needed parts for repair in Chicago, the district decided to start early.
When Neuburger heard about the situation, he started an online sign-up sheet for trout rescue volunteers. By Tuesday, the group made its first attempt to save the fish.
"The rescue was pretty much a seat-of-your-pants rescue because the lake was deeper than any rescue done before," Neuberger said, explaining in some parts of the lake, water was nearly 40 feet deep.
Volunteers and rescue workers used hoop nets, large nets that scoop fish; gill nets, nets that trap the fish by catching their gills; and electro fishing equipment.
The first day, volunteers caught 1,000 fish. However, some fish started to die in the nets, so rescuers began using only the electro-fishing equipment.
Electro-fishing equipment shocks the water in a 10-foot radius and stuns all fish in the area. The stunned fish are then removed and transported to new lakes.
What about the rest of the fish?Though they don't know how many fish were missed in the initial rescue, Jerry Neuburger, a member of California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, said they will find out later this month. By then, the water level will be at 2,000 acre feet, so the maximum depth of the entire lake will be 11 feet - low enough for the electro fishing equipment to reach all remaining fish.
However, since equipment only shocks small parts of the water at a time, rescue was slow and tedious, and could only be done at night when the fish stay close to shore.
During the second night, 1,700 more fish were caught, and the last night brought in 3,000 more.
After the captured fish were safely out of the water, volunteers brought them to other lakes.
Rainbow and brown trout went to Silver Lake while the brook trout headed off to Red Lake.
Contact Natalie Flynn at email@example.com.